Darien’s iconic Sugar Bowl changes hands as longtime owner Bobby Mazza retires: ‘I’m ready now’

DARIEN — In 1975, Bobby Mazza thought he was signing up for two weeks of managing the Sugar Bowl Luncheonette.

But a fortnight became a year, two years, then 46 more. After decades of sole proprietorship, the 72-year-old owner of the beloved local restaurant says it’s time he sets out on his next adventure.

“I need to cut the umbilical cord,” Mazza said. “It’s been so much a part of my life ... I need to open a new chapter in my life while I’m still active. I’m ready now.”

Mazza will lock up the Sugar Bowl on June 13 for the final time; he recently sold the luncheonette to Peter Crawford, the owner of the Darien Butcher Shop.

And starting June 14, Mazza said he plans on enjoying a long-awaited retirement.

A Darien staple since 1958, when Mazza’s mother Edna bought the restaurant, the diner has seen thousands of customers coming through its doors, sitting on rainbow stools at the counter or people-watching through the giant windows that look out onto Post Road. Many customers are regular — sometimes daily — patrons and have their set breakfast order and favorite table, Mazza said.

The people are part of the reason he has stayed so long, Mazza said, reflecting back on his decades at the helm of the luncheonette. Many have become friends.

He said he has watched generations of Darienites grow up, ultimately bringing their kids and grandkids to enjoy breakfast and lunch with the classics: eggs, pancakes, burgers and his favorite, the BLT.

Former First Selectman Jayme Stevenson was one of the luncheonette’s loyal patrons, bringing her five children there frequently as they grew up, she said.

“It was kind of like the kitchen table away from home,” Stevenson said. “It feels like a piece of my family's history was lived at the Sugar Bowl. But along with that, so much community coming together as well.”

So the news that Mazza is leaving has sent shockwaves through town — and beyond.

“People are calling me from all over the country, from Florida, Hawaii,” Mazza said. “They say ‘I can’t believe you’re selling the Sugar Bowl!’ They’re happy I’m retiring, but sad I’m leaving.”

Yet for all his restaurant’s icon status, Mazza didn’t have this career in mind when he first graduated college with a degree in merchandising. Though Mazza grew up with the luncheonette — it had put him and two brothers through college — he had earned a degree in merchandising and had a fledgling career at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.

But when Edna became sick in 1974, he came back home to help her run the Sugar Bowl. And when she died, Mazza decided to stay put.

Over the years, Mazza has watched Darien transform. He’s been privy to town gossip, seen investment bankers close numerous deals and poured coffee for out-of-towners who are returning home for the first time in decades.

Part of the place’s appeal is how little it has altered over the years, Mazza said. It has classic Americana decor from its wood paneling to its checkered tile floors. It makes people feel like time stood still, even as they watched downtown Darien transform through the windows that look out onto a rapidly-changing Post Road.

Yet even the Sugar Bowl Luncheonette will enter a new era. The restaurant will continue operating with its current name and style for the next six months but eventually, the new owners plan on changing its name and are mulling turning it into a bar, Mazza said.

After he retires, Mazza said he is excited to change up his routine. Even on his days off, he thinks about the Sugar Bowl and comes in once or twice. Now he can stop thinking about work entirely, Mazza said.

He can sleep in more and travel to all the countries he has on his bucket list. Mazza said he wants the freedom to take a spontaneous trip to Niagara Falls, or to see family. And it will be nice to schedule a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, Mazza said, or garden, or watch movies whenever he wants to.

“It’s been good to me,” Mazza said. “Now I think it’s time I enjoy the remainder of my years. And see the world.”